Age Discrimination in Medical Cannabis Access


When a patient comes into my pharmacy, a medical condition is treated based on need, not age.

The great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has taken a giant step toward allowing access to medical cannabis. If children younger than 18 years can obtain an amnesty letter from their physician, they can appropriate the acceptable cannabis dosage forms from other states where the sale of medical cannabis is legal, provided that their families go and get it themselves. Since it isn’t a federally legal pharmaceutical, it can’t be mailed or shipped otherwise.

This is fantastic, but why are we basing treatment on how many times a human being has travelled around the sun? Why are we discriminating against older patients who have the same disorders? Are they somehow less sick or less in need of a proven medical therapeutic? I certainly don’t believe so.

When a patient comes into my pharmacy, a medical condition is treated based on need, not age. A child with a clotting disorder is placed on anticoagulant therapy, the same as an octogenarian would be. That’s how medicine should be practiced.

Having a pharmaceutical readily available for some but not for others should go against every fiber of a pharmacist’s being. It certainly does mine.

Because pharmacists will indeed be the dispensers of medical cannabis in the Pennsylvania (someone, apparently, took my advice), we should have a say in this. Although we don’t yet have the power to dispense, we should have it in our realm to coordinate cannabis-based pharmaceutical care for all patients in need.

The law came 2 years too late for Dutch Treitz. Had it been in my power when he was first diagnosed, I literally would’ve had him bathing in cannabis oil from the outset. There are well-documented cases of cannabinoids gently putting some cancers in remission. I’m not saying we could’ve saved Dutch, but it sure would’ve been nice to try.

It just doesn’t make any sense to me to tell a pediatric or adolescent patient that we can aggressively try and treat their cancer with cannabis—in addition to traditional options—but I must say to someone who has the power to vote, “Sorry, chemo and radiation are all you have.”

Cancer doesn’t care how old you are; it kills just the same. Everybody should have this option.

Although I’m focusing on cancer, this issue applies to the other disease states, as well. Are adult patients on the spectrum less autistic? Are those who have seizures less epileptic? Certainly not.

My stake in adult treatment is personal. For about 3 years, my forward-thinking psychiatrist has placed me on the synthetic THC preparation, Dronabinol. Although it does an admirable job of helping control my psychological symptoms, vaporized cannabis oil does a far superior job. Straight THC is about 499 cannabinoids short of being completely pharmaceutically beneficial. It’s the diet soda of cannabinoid medicine, and I want the real thing.

I respectfully ask the Pennsylvania Department of Health to lift the age restriction on access to medical cannabis. Patients out there are sick and can be treated. Please let us do it.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, wants healTHCare for all.

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